Alan Wake – Day 1

After watching my husband play Alan Wake for an hour or so I decided I definitely wanted to play this game. The deeply dark and wonderfully creepy atmosphere of the game appealed to my love of horror. The gameplay for Alan Wake is very simplistic: 3rd person action, with a flashlight and a gun. It is extremely linear and very scripted with long and elaborate cutscenes, but really all of this fits the story being told. You have stepped into the role of Alan Wake, a horror writer with writer’s block. Until he goes to backwoods creepy town and all hell breaks loose.

It isn’t about splatter gore or stupid teenagers. It is about deeply paranormal and crazy events that twist the player and character’s minds. One of the better design decisions was to have pages and coffee thermoses as collectible items. These are often hidden in out of the way places. So the game promotes exploration in a tense and eerie setting. One of my other favorite additions was the inclusion of hidden chests, the location often marked by yellow paint that only becomes luminescent when the player’s flashlight moves over it.

I dove into the game with relish, quickly catching up tot he point my husband had played and the surpassing him. And then it happened. As a game designer, one would think I would be “good” at games. And I am. But I suck at twitch games. So I generally play on the easy setting and make sure I am over geared and muddle through as best as possible. Unfortunately this method doesn’t work on every game. Especially games without easy settings.

Alan Wake only has a normal setting. First off, bad designer. You are inherently creating a stepping away point. A stepping away point is when a player gets frustrated with your game and stops playing due to frustration, lack of understanding, annoyance, or boredom. Each time the player does this, there is a greater chance they won’t come back. And then they won’t remember your game. When their friends ask them what they have been playing recently, they will say “Nothing good.”

Second Alan Wake has auto saves. I have nothing against auto saving in general, except when design decides that auto saving means if the player loads back up from that point they load with whatever health, ammo, and such they had when it forced the auto save. Why does this bother me so much? It is far too easy to get a bad save. This happened to me in episode 2 of Alan Wake. I am saved, with 16 bullets. And right after the save I get jumped by 4 guys, who take 3-4 bullets each to kill. I have to play perfectly. And I can’t. I tried 3 times. So I walked away from the game and came on here to rant about it.

I don’t think this is a hard problem to solve. Allow players to save when they choose. Allow players to carry more ammo or health. Always have auto saves load the player with max health and ammo. If design is worried about “exploiting” the auto save, have a punishment for loading. Borderlands does this with a money transaction when you die. Good enough for me.